Saturday, 25 March 2017

the young and the restless

It seems like such a long time ago that I last blogged, I hardly know where to begin. So much has happened. Some of it literally soap opera, like the new world of laundry-related problems I have created for myself via recent sartorial experiments along the lines mapped out by Ono & Lennon c 1969. I shall spare you. Another thing that happened since Wednesday is I showed that pony-in-Carlton photograph to a few people who I knew would appreciate it, and one of them actually extended an invitation to go to a Canning St median strip party this very evening.

I shall not be attending, alas, though I'm sure Diane Arbus would have gone and taken some very creepy photographs. Joan Didion wrote that she went everywhere, high life and low life, in a black leotard and a wrap skirt. But I'm already in my pyjamas.

What I am doing in my pyjamas is sitting next to Leonard's bed waiting for him to go to sleep. I read him a storybook which made him very upset, and not surprising, because it's about the sudden death of a parent. He'd borrowed it, all on his own, from the school library - the first time he's ever done this - they have a huge pile of books in the prep classroom that the kids borrow from every day, but this one came from the library. As soon as he got it out I felt misgivings, but honestly, this is going to happen. By 'this' I mean he's going to encounter sad stories. Best I can do is show him that sadness doesn't destroy you. (This is the child who wept in the car when we listened to a recent Sufjan Stevens track with lyrics that go "Five red hens, you'll never see us again.") So I'm sitting here till he sleeps, and before he can stop fighting off sleep, he will need to feel a bit better. A classic parenting experience: simultaneously intense and tedious.

The median strip party inviter is the same person who invited me and another friend to see a movie with her earlier in the week; afterwards we were discussing the film and when they asked for my opinion I tried not to be unnecessarily detailed about it. (I really did.) Nevertheless she said, I'm beginning to see what you must have been like when you were a university lecturer. Ouch. It's a fair cop.

What really was a long time ago was my last appointment with my doctor. It's been three quite difficult weeks (or one and a half quite difficult fortnights.) If craft camp hadn't been there for mindlessly enjoying in the middle of that stretch of time, I think I'd be in pretty nasty shape by now. Nevertheless I've understood a few things with unusual clarity. By the time I see her on Monday I will be absolutely fucked, because Monday is the first really big day so far this year and we're going to have 700+ kids through the building. But, rather than just doing what I normally do with the doctor and recapping the awfullest thing I've done since the last session, I'll try to have a conversation about something she keeps asking me to explore: why is it that I'm all whatever this is now, when I wasn't all whatever this is before. Why am I restless? Why (not 'what') am I yearning?

Tentative answers have been put forward on both sides: it's because I've got through a very bad patch and am newly conscious of what it is to feel capable and of value; it's because my child is entering a world of greater independence and a wider horizon, and I'm (re)living what he's living; it's because of unfinished business from infancy. None of these theories are right. And, to be honest, I resent the second two. They downplay the significance of my everyday experience and the degree to which it is impossible to live the life I lead and *not* want it to be different. Sitting with a child for over an hour while he settles down to sleep, well, let's just say it gives you plenty of time to think about what else you could be doing in this hour, one of the dwindling supply of hours left to be lived. A book I'm reading says that for Buddhists, desire is a curse. I go along with that, but only up to a point, Lord Copper.

Whatever its cause, I will acknowledge to the doctor that I do sometimes recognise that this restlessness does indeed have the generic quality she's suggested it has. Like last night, I had committed myself to baking a shitload of cake stall goods to raise some money for the chook group, and after a frantic day at work, after a week struggling to get the better of a cold and on top of a chaotic logjam of work, after riding to school and collecting Len, bathing and playing with him until Dorian got home and took him to the pub for tea, I went to the supermarket to get ingredients. Driving back I saw too many people strolling the streets in the mellow glow of Friday afternoon's fading light, and I had a moment of wishing for the freedom they seemed to be enjoying. I'm ready to acknowledge that the wish for freedom was there all along, latent and content-free, and the second I saw something I could attach it to, is when it crystallised into a specific form. So that's how I sometimes feel, and I accept that it would be useful to better understand the nature of this latent wish so as to not be misled by the fleeting and changing forms it takes as it appears and reappears in me.

But in other aspects, the yearning and the restlessness is specific and feels like it has integrity, if I can put it that way. It feels like it would be a betrayal of myself to write it off as opportunistic or incidental.  And again, if I'm honest, I don't want to reason such feelings away. I'd rather live with them in all their spiky glory, and open myself up to the changes they might bring.

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